Zappa versus Macca – another crazy “contest”

On the Zappateers forum, someone re-posted some nonsense (hyperlink arguing that Paul McCartney was a better musician/composer than FZ. As curious and debatable as that notion is, the article has a fatal flaw – it emphasizes solo McCartney, not Beatles McCartney!

There are two musicological ways to comment on that.

1. As a teenager I used to argue that Frank Zappa would one day be acclaimed as the most significant musician of the second half of the twentieth century. In keeping with the typical drift towards pessimism and despair as one ages, I no longer believe this.
FZ spoke a musical language which people either intuitively understand or are alienated by. (Think of the melodic lines and chord progressions in a composition like “The Perfect Stranger” (from the album of the same name), “Envelopes” (from the album Ship Arriving…) or even “Dew On The Newts We Got” (from the Pleated Gazelle section of 200 Motels) – that’s Zappa language in its purest form. To those who do not naturally “get” it, it sounds either “coldly technical” or, to quote Martin Aston, “grotesque and sarcastic”.
Accessible or not, “pure uncompromising Zappa” is indisputably “nobler” than post-Beatles-McCartney’s large catalogue of annoyingly nonsensical / incoherent songs (think Jet, think Admiral Halsey, think Little Lamb…or Bip Bop if you want the extreme).

2. McCartney was (presumably still is) an excellent multi-instrumentalist, but the writer pays too much attention to his bass playing (arguably the least of his talents).
In rock music, and R&B, the development of the bass guitar was stifled early. Compare and contrast the history of the bass instruments in jazz.

McCartney represents the first stage in the attempted emancipation of the bass in popular music – the Milt Hinton/George Duvivier stage.

John Entwistle, Jack Bruce and Carol Kay represent the next stage – they’re the Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford and Ray Brown of popular music (perhaps).

The better funk bassists – let’s state the obvious and cite Larry Graham and Bootsy – because of their tone and attack they’re analogous to Charles Mingus.

And the bass virtuosi who more often than not had either one foot in the jazz camp or a detailed knowledge of jazz – Chris Squire, John Camp of Renaissance, and from Zappa’s orbit Patrick O’Hearn – they’re comparable to the likes of Scott La Faro and Jimmy Garrison.

But that’s where it stops. There have been no developments in rock/R&B bass playing comparable to Jaco Pastorius/Steve Swallow/Peter Kowald. The inherent populist conservatism of the musical forms militate against it. The only development has been re-examination, and refinement, of the mid-’60s bass style (Peter Hook, Simon Gallup, Simon Raymonde).


Epilogue to Maple Bee post

Fortunately this is currently available on YouTube – the first chapter (for us) of the Mel Garside story.

The audio is neither hi-fi nor drastically lo-fi. Like a superior bootleg it has a lot of “ambience” and the lyrics are difficult to make out, but for most of these songs there are no other extant recordings.

And the sad part is – as simple as many of these songs are, they’re more commanding than most of the Four Worlds/Little Victories material. Crucially, this rivals Eradicate Apathy as a recording where we really get to revel in That Voice – if only, if only she still sounded this vibrant.

Lucy Cotter versus Maple Bee – an improbable “contest”

I’d been waiting ages for this to appear on YouTube.

The playlist starts anticlimatically with a totally straight PJ Harvey cover, but then the original songs start to appear…

I don’t know how Lucy Cotter got herself into such a situation, but when fronting the group The Morgans (using the stage name LeFay – well, of course!) she found herself signed to Dressed To Kill – a label that specialised in various-artists compilations. (Compilations often very good indeed, sometimes crappy and/or deceptive, sometimes both). Somehow she was persuaded to participate in every tribute album project going, in addition to recording solo and with the band.

These recordings were included on every possible compilation, under a variety of made-up names (Ghost Mother Cometh, Lucyfix, Snogram). Suddenly everyone had heard her songs, or at least her voice, but few knew who she was.

Finally these songs were gathered and re-released under her own name. (I think there’s a cover tune or two missing from this playlist, along with the “rant” version of Half Girl).

I knew that stylistically, thematically and at times vocally, it was striking a familiar tone. And then I realised – with this, Lucy Cotter somehow has made – to oversimplify – the album we always wanted, but didn’t get, from Maple Bee

I’ve been catching up with the Maple Bee catalog* and finding myself disappointed. I was underwhelmed when the album Home came out, but I now know that was not an abberration but a “norm” for Melanie Garside.

I don’t know which of these principles apply: (a) Some people need to be miserable to kickstart their “creativity”, because they can’t write inspired/inspiring music when they’re content with life; or (b) Some people are doomed to only ever experience a brief bout of “artistic inspiration”. (Which in her case was basically Vertigo Angels, half of Fossil and half of Chasing Eva). Things went off when she’d exorcised (or salved, through parenthood? I thought, usually, that had the opposite effect…) whatever trauma was driving her.
[Aside: Dubious theory which must be aired – I always had a suspicion that Katie-Jane and Mel grew up suffering under (an?) abusive parent(?s)…just because there was a time when images of suffocation, starvation, and burning – and cannibalism, not to be confused with oral sex – regularly turned up in the songs of both.]

Worse, she’s almost lost that trademark Garside family vibrato.

* Give her credit though, for luring Ruth Galloway out of “retirement” (multi-instrumentalist and arranger who also was, at one time, the sexiest Mediaeval Baebe)

Controversy #1 – Is Christian Vander really a nazi?

Like the similar question re Douglas Pearce, this one never goes away.
My theory is – no, based on the real, definite evidence, and the balance of probabilities.
But even if he is – guess what – it doesn’t make any difference to you and I! If you can’t aceept that the art and the artist are separate, you are dangerously deluded blab blah blah blah I’ve said it all before…
Let’s take another look at the “Vander is a Nazi” hype as it was infamously presented, years ago, first on Facebook, then on the kohntarosz blog. The “evidence”:
(a) some rather harsh remarks made in 1970 about the then under-developed state of India and parts of the African subcontinent, and about international aid
(b) some rumours aired online (Facebook and the blog) by someone who claimed to be keyboard player Emmanuel Borghi
(c) some rumours aired in the past by Daevid Allen.
Whether the Borghi remarks were even written by Borghi cannot be proven – and, for the sake of everybody’s personal privacy, should not be proven! But as a consequence they cannot be taken as gospel.
Is Borghi trustworthy? NO. Is Vander trustworthy? NO. Am I trustworthy? NO. Because whoever you are, if you’re reading this, you don’t know me, or Mr B, Or Mr V. You don’t share a brain with any of the above. There’s no such thing as communication blah blah blah blah must I write that stuff all again?…
Let’s go through this “evidence for the prosecution”:
(a) A quotation from Goebbels in a sleevenote. It’s an apposite quote to accompany a piece of music supposedly depicting a war, and supposedly telling its story through the eyes of a pair of dictator/would-be-messiah types, one of whom effectively leads his followers to mass suicide (MDK). What are we supposed to do – pretend the Nazi regime didn’t coin any useful phrases?
(b) Claims made by Allen that Vander had or has a collection of Nazi memorabilia – claims that we can’t, and have no right to attempt to, prove or disprove.
(c) Claims that Vander was/is a holocaust denier or downplayer, given to Hitler-is-misunderstood conspiracy rhetoric. This was never meant to be a politics blog let alone a history blog. So rather than delve into the issues raised there…more claims that we can’t, and have no right to attempt to, prove or disprove.
(d) Claims that the Seventh record company uses Nazi iconography in its logos and its sleeve artwork. E.g the venue depicted on the Bobino concert album/video is allegedly based on an unbuilt design by Albert Speer. Even though it looks to the not-very-well-trained eye more like a typical Greco-Roman relic than anything “alpine”.
To which the reply is – if it’s based on Speer, guess what, it doesn’t make any difference to any of us! What idiots believe that bricks and mortar have some sort of magic powers? Oh yes, I know, religious people (which, despite their pretences to atheism, the Nazis were).
(d) Claims that the Kobaian language – which sounds vaguely German but, on paper, looks more Slavic – has always been used as a vehicle for encoded Nazi rhetoric. For instance – here’s a strange one! – claims that those screamed “lectures” on the debut album are Hitler impersonations, which consist of garbled phonetic-approximations of “the little bastard’s” speeches!
To refresh our memories, Kobaian is a “language” which, as everyone involved in its creation have told us for the past fifty years, doesn’t really exist, except as a musically useful set of sounds. When fans with specialist linguistic knowledge have tried to construct Kobaian grammars and dictionaries, they have been neither supported nor condemned by Vander, Blasquiz and co.
This theory makes about as much sense as Chris Knowles’s theories about Elizabeth Fraser (he doesn’t know what she’s saying any better than I do – in fact he knows less than I do: how can you trust a man whose hearing is so far gone he can’t tell “k”s from “t”s and “n”s from “l”s?)
So anyway… here we have Christian Vander depicted as a guy not only using his band and record company as a Trojan horse for Nazi propaganda but propaganda so obscure only he could have noticed it. Now, ask yourself, who has Vander always publically named as his main source of inspiration, his role model, his spirit guide? Who?
Oh man, this is a killer! – we have here a theory which involves the use of John Coltrane – John fucking Coltrane!! – a symbol/mask for Adolf Hitler.
When I look at the supposed “Nazi iconography” of the Seventh Records logos and sleeve designs (even before they adopted CD digipacks in the Studio Zund era), I’ll tell you what I see! An amalgam of references to two legacy record companies, namely Impulse and OJC. What, or who, connects those labels?
When I hear Vander (yes, it is him, not Blasquiz) yelling his incomprehensible rhetoric on the debut and elsewhere, I’ll tell you what I hear! A guy trying to use his voice the way Pharoah Sanders used his tenor saxophone (or, if you want to play devil’s advocate, Peter Brotzmann or Willem Breuker). But…Pharoah Sanders, that ties in with the Egypt element in the Magma myths and legends.

By the way, is that controversial 1970 Rock & Folk Magazine quotation even real? Nothing you read online can be taken as gospel – as proof,  first we would need an ink-and-paper document, then we would need the 1970 “publisher” to verify the authenticity of said document.

Finally – a few things the people on that blog never tired of pointing out, Christian was part-Romany. And was married for years to Stella (who is Jewish) and has had more than a few Jewish people in the band. And none of the supposed hidden messages in the above are actually saying anything anti-semitic or against judaism.
A guy with “gypsy roots” who presents as the world’s biggest John Coltrane fan. Who has periodically indulged in “culturally I’m a black guy trapped in a white guy’s body” type talk. Whose other influences, referenced in his own music, are most notably Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, gospel music in general, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and WIlson Pickett (MG and WP are referenced in two of the least-loved tracks on the Bobino album).
Like I said, balance of probabilities…
But because we live in a world where it’s being made more apparent than ever that “liberte? c’est un reve!” (ha ha, see what i did there) – since 2006 Magma “product” has being withdrawn from sale in some areas, and Magma discussions have been censored out of existence by a few self-appointed censors of so-called “online publishing”. So this is an Issue in need of Action.

Controversy #2 – Who’s Bad? What’s Dangerous?

Watching “Michael Jackson: Leaving Neverland” –
after seething over Wade Robson’s insistence on using the meaningless and misleading phrase “all that sexual stuff”:

he may be, with rare exceptions, unable to say what he means, because he’s running into a mental block, but, speaking as someone who still has his own mental blocks to overcome, that is not actually reasonable behavior! –

My first set of thoughts was:

Ok guys. He groped (masturbated) you (in a “circle jerk” context). And in some cases he sucked you off, or tried to. And in Wade’s case – he tried to fuck you when you were a teenager – NOT when you were a child, when you were a teenager.
So that’s the cause of your paranoia, your anxiety, depression?
How does that – the overwhelming bulk of what Wade and James say was done to them – compare to what was inflicted on my brother and I (and our half-sister, and cousins). If you wonder what I’m talking about. refer to the heavy handed hints in my other two blogs and elsewhere e.g psychcentral. What you say he did, is that in the same category?
Well, yes, the attempted oral sex (Gavin/James) and – especially, obviously – the attempted anal sex (Wade) experiences definitely would be in the same category.
But the actions that were being euphemistically drawn attention to throughout the film? Cha’m’one!
Mutual masturbation. That is not something you live with unpleasant memories of every day of your life.
My second set of thoughts is:

…But wait a minute, what am I saying?!
I’m missing the point!!

Just as surely as the mothers and brothers and wives in the documentary were missing the point.

Taking them at their word…
MJ presented the mutual masturbation and later the attempts at oral and anal sex as “expressions of love” as “part of a loving relationship”.

There is the abuse – in the notions of “love” and “the family”. That is the abuse which the relatives and partners in the documentary are also guilty of.

Firstly – Do not pretend that “physical contact in general” is not in fact also violence. A violation of privacy. Never conflate this with “love”. One thing which needs to be abolished is the pretence that there is such a thing as a physical expresion of “love”. Physical contact is only ever “use”, or as the pious call it “assault” or if it involves penetration in the nether regions “rape”. That is a fact of life. Strip away all the pretense, all the nonsense – what is sex? Sex is a person using another person as a toilet.

Males use/”assault” females, and homosexual males of a certain mindset use/”assault” homosexuals of another mindset. And females can use/”assault” heterosexual males – there’s a common method you might have heard of, the pretentious call it “cunnilingus”.
And all this is nature taking its course – “relationships” are not natural. and everyone knows this intuitively way before they’re able to verbalise it. Free “sex” from any association with “love” and more humans will, in accordance with nature, grow a hard shell around it and carry on.
Secondly – and more importantly – Do not pretend that humans are “social animals”. Do not pretend that we are not in fact solitary animals whose natural inclination is to “individualism”/”survivalism”, is the drive-to, or quest-for, “self-sufficiency”.
The “nuclear family” is inherently abusive – physically and more importantly psychologically.
It’s unnatural. Just like “schooling” is unnatural (it’s “indoctrination” – the very opposite of “education” which at all ages can only be autodidactic/self-induced),

and just like “the State”,  the “family” is a power structure – a mechanism by which some exert tyrrany over others, a means of psychological abuse – intimidation, deception, confusion, and retarding of the young person’s natural development.

What was MJ presenting as, to his younger companions? As part of a “family” (for that is what a “lover” aspires to be).
That‘s the appalling part.

Back to music (cause all the politicking is exhausting)

But even hear I can’t avoid reference to the ongoing threat of EU legislation that will make “fair use” a thing of the past.

At the time of writing, some Frank Zappa footage which I didn’t know existed is being uploaded to YouTube. Uploaded by the disagreeable Echidnasarfhouewife, but…at least it’s there. Here are the links


Stockholm – the “dragon” gig (incomplete but sync’ed to audio from superior sources)

Lund – the “henna-hoona” gig (also incomplete)



Epilogue to earlier Bowie post

The “creep” of puritan / neo-fascist politics into every aspect of our lives continues unopposed

Note the Sylvia Plath/Wainwright family sections. So having tired of his not-so-subtle argument that “it’s inherently abusive for a man to write about a woman”, he moves on to argue that “it’s abusive for a real person to write about another real person”, even pseudonymized!
This article is somehow more offensive for being written by a “man”. Or rather a male-identified member of that subhuman / inadequate alien species that seeks to – and does – dominate, tyrranise and terrorize the sane, the competent. The same alien inmitigatedly destructive species that gave us the likes of Julie Bindel, Laura Bates, Bjork, Rose MacGowan, Grimes…I can’t be bothered to try and remember any more.